Seamus Heaney

Banquet speech

Seamus Heaney’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1995

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s ceremonies and tonight’s banquet have been mighty and memorable events. Nobody who has shared in them will ever forget them, but for the laureates these celebrations have had a unique importance. Each of us has participated in a ritual, a rite of passage, a public drama which has been commensurate with the inner experience of winning a Nobel Prize. The slightly incredible condition we have lived in since the news of the prizes was announced a couple of weeks ago has now been rendered credible. The mysterious powers represented by the words Nobel Foundation and Swedish Academy have manifested themselves in friendly human form. For me, it has been a great joy and a great reassurance to come to Stockholm and to meet at every turn people of such grace, such intelligence and such good will. Which is another way of saying that the whole week has not only been ceremonially impressive: it has also felt emotionally true, and it is that sense of something personally trustworthy at the centre of the great event that I finally value most, and cherish and give you thanks for. It has helped more than anything else to bring home to me the reality of the great honour I have received. Oscar Wilde once said that the only way to survive temptation was to yield to it. So here and now, I happily and gratefully yield to the temptation to believe that I am indeed the winner of a Nobel Prize. Thank you very much.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1995, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1996

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1995

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